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Help Users Help Themselves

When it comes to user file shares, storage administrators are between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, they're responsible for ensuring the uptime of the storage they maintain. And at the same time, they have no authority to delete the data that is choking their systems.

At least, that's the predicament described by Jeff Erramouspe, chief marketing officer at the Austin, TX-based startup Deepfile Corp. The company recently announced its Deepfile Sentinel, an add-on to its Deepfile Auditor and Deepfile Enforcer file management and policy-enforcement software. While Auditor and Enforcer analyze and set policies around what data a company should or should not keep, Sentinel effectively sends the ball back into the user's court, providing them with the information and tools needed to make an informed decision about what to keep and what to delete.

Sentinel came out of discussions with customers, Erramouspe says. Deepfile Auditor and Enforcer are good and useful tools, but administrators "were really uncomfortable with pulling the trigger [and deleting files] because they didn't own the files," says Erramouspe.

At Northern Software, which makes the Windows-based Northern Storage Suite, self-service has become a guiding principle. "We've turned storage administration into a Zen koan--in order to regain control, admins need to cede some," writes a spokesperson. With the Northern Storage Portal, users can view canned reports that show, say, their ten largest or oldest files.

Administrators shouldn't worry about giving up too much control, says Lee Taylor, Northern channel marketing manager. "We're not giving users the ability to do anything that they can't already do with Windows Explorer." Rather, it's about putting the right data in front of the user "at the right time, in a useable format."

Clearly, storage resource management (SRM) vendors are doing something right. IDC recently reported that SRM software led a recent surge in storage software sales, with 32.3% revenue growth in the first quarter of 2004.

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